I have worked in the hotel industry for a handful of years now. I also studied Hospitality and Tourism Management in college. I have worked in several departments: the front desk, finance, and human resources. I have experienced, in my opinion at least, quite a bit of the industry. And when I heard that the book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality was coming out, I was really looking forward to reading it. Now I don’t think I need to spew off a lengthy review of this book and I by no means feel I am professional. So please, be my guest (pun intended!) and read detailed reviews from the New York Times, Barnes & Nobel Reviews, or a Q&A at NBC News. I just want to take the time and share with you a few of my thoughts about this book – because what fun is it to read if you cannot talk about it?
THINGS I AGREE WITH:
“Never, ever will the hotel accuse you of lying. That is the absolute last stance hotel management wants to take.” p.57
The author, Jacob Tomsky, takes great pride in sharing with you the secret of the minibar – all things can be disputed, and all things will be removed from your bill. Which is in all honesty the truth – it’s nearly impossible to prove anything about the minibar. You didn’t eat it? Fine, it’ll be removed from your bill. But I think he also makes a great point about the entire business in general, you are our guest and we don’t think you’re lying. Often times guests can spend far too much time trying to come up with elaborate excuses as to why something was missing from the minibar or why their non-smoke room smelled like smoke. At the end of the day, we are going to believe you.
“A guest’s first instinct, since the beginning of hoteldom, all the way back to the nineteenth century, is to immediately assume the housekeeper is a thief I cannot stand that. These ladies need their jobs, and never once have I witnessed a situation where a housekeeper put her job at stake for one earring. Usually, the guest lost it, or maybe left it buried in the bed linens…” p.72
I believe that the author worded this so well. And it is probably one of my favorite take aways from the book and I hope a notion that many readers will finally grasp. I would bet that 99.98% of the time that no the housekeeper did not steal your missing item. It just doesn’t happen. In fact, there is typically some sort of reward or recognition program for housekeepers that turn in found items to security.
“And NO they do not have your personal information on them, with credit card info, passport number, and the ages of your children. Who started that rumor, I know not. Why the hell would we put personal info on a disposable key card?” p.198
This made me laugh so hard! I remember so many different guests being so genuinely worried about their key cards and begging at check out if they could keep them. First of all, yes you can keep them – a huge majority of our guests never return them and never ask. And second of all, I blame Oprah. I’m pretty sure she started this bizarre rumor.
“Finally, if you happen to have a successful experience, then make a point to memorize the agent’s name.” p. 245
Recognition is key at a hotel. It’s key that the hotel staff recognizes their special guests, their return guests, their loyal guests, their first time guests, their guests celebrating a big day, ect. Basically, it’s key that every guest feels recognized. And as a hotel employee, it is such a fantastic feeling to have that sense of recognition reciprocated Oh what? Out of all the employees here you thought I was so great that you remembered me? Yes, I will take care of that for you….
“Been working as a front desk agent so long it makes me want to shit out my heart?” p.215
Overall, I thought the book was really well written. Some of his stories actually made me laugh out loud. I also related to a bunch from working at the front desk for about two years. But more than anything, I felt like he came off as a giant jerk. And I think the reason being that he worked at the front desk for 10 + years. That is a lot of time to be spent at the front desk. The job is grueling: the schedule can be rough, the attention to detail can be mind numbing, and the people can be incredibly tough. I don’t believe that anyone is meant to be at the front desk for very long. I felt burnt out after two years. I cannot even fathom working at the front desk for 10 years. It’s a vital part of the operation and I think as a hotelier you’d be silly not to understand it and to have some experience there. However front desk agents for life? That’s just asking for a handful of resentment towards your job.
THINGS I DON’T AGREE WITH:
“All of my service training was gone. I talked fast and dirty. If you weren’t tipping me, then move on. I had money to make.” p.187
No. Get out from behind the front desk and get a different job. This is exactly what it shouldn’t be about.
“There is nothing I can do.” p. 246
Hospitality 101 – never say no, never say I can’t. If you truthfully cannot do something say, allow for 3 beds in a room due to fire codes or get someone an extra room because the hotel is sold out, then come up with solutions. But to say there is nothing I can do? That is just not okay and it is absolutely not luxury service.
“To pick the name off a tag and use it, whatever your intention, makes employees acutely feel they have lost their personal worth, that they themselves are included in the price.” p.242
Remember how I rambled on and on about recognition earlier? That’s basically all I have to say about that. Use the name tags of employees, use them graciously and often.
Well, so much for me not offering a lengthy review huh? I would give this book 4/5 stars. It was an entertaining read and there is no question that Tomsky is a talented writer. I don’t agree with everything he said and I almost think more than anything that he just isn’t cut out for the hotel industry – which makes it a really good thing that he is now a writer instead.
Have you read this book yet? What did you think? Or, do you want to read this book?
if you’re lucky enough to have time to read for fun, you’re lucky enough